2 Organisational Resistance to Change

Some of the main reasons for organizational resistance against change are as follows:

  • Organisation culture: Recall that the culture of an organisation develops over time and may not be easy to change. The pervasive nature of culture in terms of ‘how things are done around here’ also has a significant effect on organisational processes and the behaviour of staff. An ineffective culture may result in a lack of flexibility for, or acceptance of, change.
  • Maintaining stability: Organisations, especially large-scale ones, pay much attention to maintaining stability and predictability. The need for formal organisation structure and the division of work, narrow definitions of assigned duties and responsibilities, established rules, procedures and methods of work, can result in resistance to change. The more mechanistic or bureaucratic the structure, the less likely it is that the organisation will be responsive to change.
  • Investment in resources: Change often requires large resources which may already be committed to investments in other areas or strategies. Assets such as buildings, technology, equipment and people cannot easily be altered.
  • Past contracts or agreements: Organisations enter into contracts or agreements with other parties, such as the government, other organisations, trade unions, suppliers and customers. These contracts and agreements can limit changes in behaviour – for example, organisations operating under a special licence or permit, or a fixed-price contract to supply goods/services to a government agency.
  • Threats to power or influence: Change may be seen as a threat to the power or influence of certain groups within the organisation, such as their control over decisions, resources or information. For example, managers may resist the introduction of quality circles or worker-directors because they see this as increasing the role and influence of non-managerial staff, and a threat to the power in their own positions.

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